Ray Ortlund: So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 I’m not against strategic plans. I’m for them. They have their place, as a matter of wise stewardship. But they cannot generate the astonishing outcomes described in the book of Acts. I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one. What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. In the fear of the Lord, they were teachable, they were humble, they were listening to the gospel, they were open and grateful and easily bendable. They did
Chad Hall: I have had the privilege to serve as a coach to pastors for over 15 years, and I’ve noticed that it does not take long in the coaching relationship for the topic of church size to come up. I’ve also noticed that some pastors approach church growth with health and wholeness while others struggle with (and because of) church size. If you are a pastor, church planter, or key leader, you need a healthy and theologically sound attitude for dealing with church growth, size, and numbers. To help you develop such an attitude, here are five things to recognize when it comes to church size. Growth is not the only good. Some church leaders lack a biblical imagination that would allow them to envision a purpose for their church other than growth. Making growth (or big) synonymous with good is a recipe for disaster because it prevents good from being a higher value than growth. Granted, big and good are not opposites, but
J. I. Packer: “I have found that churches, pastors, seminaries, and parachurch agencies throughout North America are mostly playing the numbers game—that is, defining success in terms of numbers of heads counted or added to those that were there before. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, news reporters, and others all speak as if (1) numerical increase is what matters most; (2) numerical increase will surely come if our techniques and procedures are right; (3) numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does; (4) numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal. I detect four unhappy consequences of this. First, big and growing churches are viewed as far more significant than others. Second, parachurch specialists who pull in large numbers are venerated, while hard-working pastors are treated as near-nonentities. Third, lively laymen and clergy too are constantly being creamed off from the churches to run parachurch ministries, in which, just because they specialize on a relatively narrow front, quicker and more striking
J.D. Greear: The Great Commission is, in many ways, the marching orders of the church, the benchmark by which we measure success. Inherent to the Great Commission is the command to make disciples, which implies two types of growth—width and depth.We are to reach people from every nation on earth. That’s width. We are to make true disciples of them, teaching them to obey all that he has commanded. That’s depth. To be faithful, a church must vigorously pursue both. Depending on a person’s disposition, however, it is easy to gravitate toward one or the other. It certainly makes decision-making a lot easier. But evaluating success by width alone or by depth alone is both unfaithful and self-defeating.Churches that grow only wide (and not deep) are not growing nearly as wide as they think; and those that grow deep (without caring about width) are not nearly as deep as they think. 1. Width Without Depth Is Unfaithful. When a church produces converts who aren’t really
From The Gospel Coalition: Talk to certain critics of Reformed theology, and you might think something about the doctrines of grace inhibits church growth. Talk to some proponents of Reformed theology, and you might reach the same conclusion. We—both the pastors up front and the Christians in the pews—assign spiritual value to church size, depending on our background and perspective. We see large churches as a sure sign of God’s faithfulness in some cases, and small churches as a sign of God’s faithfulness in other cases. So what, really, does church size matter? That’s the question discussed in this video by pastors Kevin DeYoung, Matt Chandler, and Mark Dever. Their friendly banter touches on serious subjects, including: the awesome responsibility of giving pastoral account for thousands of souls; the urgent need for more ambition to see Jesus Christ change many lives; and the practical nightmare of exponential church growth. They also suggest some helpful resources, no matter your church size.
By Bobby Jamieson: How do you try to fill up your church building? And what does that say about your belief in the Holy Spirit? TWO WAYS TO FILL A CHURCH Nineteenth-century Baptist Francis Wayland suggests that there are basically two ways to fill a church (Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches, 43-47). One is to preach in a way that is agreeable and inoffensive to both believers and unbelievers. The other is to preach in a way that highlights the difference between true religion and mere profession, and thus creates a sharp contrast between the church and the world. The first approach seems reasonable. After all, why would non-Christians come to hear sermons about things they’ve never experienced and can’t understand? Why would non-Christians come to a church that highlights the fact that they are outsiders? Yet Wayland argues that the price of this approach is far too steep. In order for his preaching to equally please Christians
From Colin Hansen: Some churches excel in raising up a large number of disciples. Others are known for their strong quality of discipleship. What accounts for this difference? James MacDonald, Mark Dever, and Matt Chandler discuss in this roundtable video how God has particularly gifted them as pastors and how they relate to other evangelical churches with different strengths. Chandler talks about what he learned from leading a young church with a swelling number of new converts with few experienced Christians to train them. MacDonald and Dever share how they honor other churches in their area, such as Willow Creek and McLean Bible, even while disagreeing over important aspects of ministry practice. In so doing they demonstrate their belief that the kingdom of Christ in a city is larger than any one church. Watch as these three pastors explain how they facilitate spiritual depth among church members while trusting God to take care of width of influence.
John MacArthur writes: The market-driven philosophy of user-friendly churches does not easily permit them to take firm enough doctrinal positions to oppose false teaching. Their outlook on leadership drives them to hire marketers who can sell rather than biblically qualified pastors who can teach. Their approach to ministry is so undoctrinal that they cannot educate their people against subtle errors. Their avoidance of controversy puts them in a position where they cannot oppose false teaching that masquerades as evangelicalism. In fact, the new trends in theology seem ideally suited to the user-friendly philosophy. Why would the user-friendly church oppose such doctrines? But oppose them we must, if we are to remain true to God’s Word and maintain a gospel witness. Pragmatic approaches to ministry do not hold answers to the dangers confronting biblical Christianity today. Pragmatism promises bigger churches, more people, and a living church, but it is really carnal wisdom–spiritually bankrupt and contrary to the Word of God. Marketing
John Loftness identifies three specific advantages: Small forces you to focus on the fundamentals, but with flexibility. Small allows you to build one interconnected community. Small allows you to expand. Here are few selected quotes from his message: “What is a small church? I don’t think it is about numbers. I think it is about relationships. A small church is a church in which every member is able to participate personally with every other member.” “My purpose is not to advocate for small churches or to label large churches as inherently bad. Both have their strengths and their weaknesses. I am here to address small church pastors. And here is my big point: In a large church the opportunity is excellence, but the challenge is relationships. In a small church the challenge is excellence, but the opportunity is relationships.” “Small church pastor, my advice to you is to see that your church—by virtue of its size—has tremendous advantages that allow it to further Jesus’ mission
John MacArthur celebrated 40 years as pastor of Grace Community Church this weekend. In the book, Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, MacArthur shares the secret of his success in conversation with Justin Taylor: Early in my first year or so at Grace Community Church, I had this little kind of motto that I used: “If you concentrate on the depth of your ministry, God will take care of the breadth of it.” My ministry hasn’t changed since that first year in that small, little church. For me, it’s all about getting into the depth of Scripture and my own personal walk with the Lord. Breadth is something that God does. . . . (HT: Between Two Worlds)